Today, Katie’s talking about finding your voice, and I’m giving tips to help you with ANY type of writing you may have to do. So be sure to check out BOTH of our posts and then link up with your response to our “assignments.” And then be sure to go and read other people’s stuff and comment and be friendly and have fun! (We’re both teachers. Homework is what we do, people.)
I’ve always been pretty good with words. Reading and writing and analyzing a situation have just always come naturally to me. But I know it’s not that way for everyone. I mean, hello! I teach high school English. I’m well-versed in the ways of bad writing. I red-pen it almost every day.
And I get it.
For some people it’s a chore so far on the bottom of the list that they’ve scrubbed the toilet with a toothbrush before getting around to doing it. (And I’m only talking about teenagers here!)
But you blog, right? So you love words, too.
Here’s the thing about words, and writing especially, that is so wonderful. Get ready for a truthbomb, people.
You probably aren’t bad at it. At least not as bad as you think you are.
What you probably need is a little polish. (That’s polish, as in the stuff you shine you use to shine your silver. Not Polish, as in people from Poland. Words can be tricky.)
Your ideas are likely wonderful. And people probably WANT to hear what you have to say. And at the very least, YOU deserve to read what YOU have to say, you know?
When I write, I write so that when I hit publish I’m happy with what I’ve written. I’m proud of what I’ve produced.
I promise, that isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Today? I’m going to share a thing or two with you about adding a little polish to your posts before you hit publish. These are the first and most important tips I know.
1. Know the basic rules of grammar.
“But Miranda,” you say,“Grammar is stupid and hard and stupid. And I don’t wanna.” ::footstomp::
Well, that’s totally your prerogative.
But I can tell you that the first indicator of whether a blog author and I are going to jive is the grammar in the posts. People WANT to read things that are well-written. They just do. Run-on sentences are a no-no for me. If you’ve not used a period in an entire paragraph, I’m finding the red X quickly.
And if you are comma or ellipses happy and they are shaken liberally throughout your posts like salt on your French fries? It’s simply no longer poetic license. In fact, it indicates that you don’t care enough to take the time to make your reading something people who come to your blog should WANT to read.
When you take the time to make sure your grammar is good, you’re taking the time to let your reader know you care about what you’re doing. I’m serious. Good grammar is just good practice.
If you want to go on a grammar binge and try to learn everything there is to know about the subject? Go here and read Grammar Girls Quick-and-Dirty Tips. If you want to hit the highlights just to start? Focus on run-on sentences, and read up on the comma. It’s also good to know other basic rules of punctuation.
That’s enough grammar to get you started. I think.
2. Proofread as you go!
Proofreading is a two-step process. You’re reading your writing to check for all that pesky grammar stuff I mentioned up there. This is when you’ll read through to make sure your punctuation is in the right spots and you’re using the correct “your/you’re” “there/their/they’re” “then/than,” and “to/too.” (For starters o_o)
- Your=possession, you’re=a contraction for you are.
- Their=posession, there=location, they’re=a contraction for they are
- Then=time, than=comparison
- To=usually pairs with a verb to make an infinitive or helps indicate location, too=in addition/also
(Dude. I told you words could be tricky! Why do you think it’s so hard for people to learn English? In what other language do you chop a tree DOWN and then cut it UP??)
You’re also reading to make sure that you’re getting your point across. This is called proofreading for clarity.
Are you saying things in a way that make logical sense to you? Cool. But what about to your readers? Do you think they’ll be able to understand your meaning?
That’s the hard part of writing. There is no tone of voice and inflection and facial expression and emphasis to clarify a writer’s meaning. The writer can only rely on his or her words to convey the chosen message. So choose carefully.
The only way you’ll be able to really hone the skill of proofreading for clarity is by following step 3.
3. Edit, edit, and edit again.
Have you ever published a post and read through it and said “Wow…that totally doesn’t sound how I meant?”
EDIT. WOOHOO! That’s the power of blogging!
It’s not like you printed it into a million copies, all of which sold out, and then, while reading through it, you realize you forgot a very important word, or used the wrong homophone or had an unintended run-on sentence and you are all ::facepalm::ing knowing that the million people who are reading your book may see that error you made that you, your editor, the other editor, and anyone else who read your manuscript didn’t catch!
You can edit your writing! You are all powerful and stuff!
Sometimes, edits happen because you boo-boo’ed. And that’s okay. It happens. We get all quick-fingered and fast-brained and we type the wrong thing. You don’t have to leave it forever.
Most of the time? Edits happen for clarity. We realize we forgot important details, or we realize that we’re getting a little rambly long about paragraph 4. So we edit. And that is a GOOD THING. Promise.
Get comfy with making edits when you realize you’ve made a mistake or aren’t clear about something.
Editing is how we learn to get better. True story.
Those are my top three tips for improving your writing from a technical aspect. Ready for your assignment?
Katie has given you the task of exploding a moment. I want you to explode that moment and then I want you to use step 1, or 2, or 3 (or all of the above if you’re feeling crazy!) and apply that step to your exploded moment. Maybe you want to add details. Maybe you see some boo-boos and you want to fix them. Maybe you learned something about grammar and you want to fix a mistake you’re guilty of repeatedly making.
Do it. Edit, proofread, use good grammar! And then? Link up. We’ll read and cheer you on!